DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s move politically motivated or is he investigating wrongdoing by asking school districts for emails related to voting?
CBS 11 obtained a copy of the request Mesquite ISD received from the Texas Attorney General, asking for emails from all principals and the superintendent that have anything to do with voting.
“Is there was something that we did wrong,” said Mesquite ISD spokeswoman Laura Jobe. “It would be great if they would just point that out to us and let us know.”
Jobe says they’ve done nothing wrong. Now the district is scrambling to fulfill a public records request by the Attorney General of Texas. It specifically asks for emails in the last six months with key words election, Texas Legislature, vote or voting or any mention of any candidate in Texas.
“We are talking about hours and hours and probably months of work,” said Jobe.
Mesquite ISD says it received the request February 23. It has asked for clarification twice, saying the request is too broad. CBS 11 asked the Attorney General’s office why it sent the request to multiple school districts in North Texas.
No answer yet.
“I think that this is a voter suppression by the attorney general,” said Dr. Cal Jillson, a political science expert from SMU. “State funding for schools in Texas has been declining for more than a decade, and superintendents and principals and teachers are trying to push back on that.”
Mesquite ISD has a program where teachers are rewarded for voting— a day to wear jeans, normally off limits.
“We can’t encourage people to vote for a particular candidate or a particular ballot measure or that sort of thing, but we have always encouraged our employees to be active citizens and vote,” said Jobe.
Allen ISD confirms it was sent a similar request. The attorney general, who’s on the ballot this year, as well as his wife, wouldn’t say how many other school districts are being scrutinized. The SMU political expert says what makes this even more strange is how the attorney general requested the documents. As attorney general, he could have requested them through officials channels, but instead he requested them like a private citizen.
“A formal official request from the Attorney General’s Office which would have to be much more focused, much more specific and backed with reasons for why he wants this information,” said Jillson.